Review: “The Serpent and the Hatchet Gang” by F. Brett Cox

3 of 5 stars.

This curious tale melds 2 historic accounts from the Rockport, MA area not unlike the way Erik Larson [Isaac’s Storm, Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City et al.] creates historic fiction from gleaned sources. In this case, the Victorian Era actions of an uprising of the women of Rockport against the sale and consumption of alcohol in the city enmeshes with the unexplained coastal sightings of some sort of monstrous sea serpent from those same years.

On the former issue, the tale is colorful and forthcoming. As the history can and has been delved, it’s interesting to see an account of a pre-prohibition, neo-puritan uprising that ended successfully. Amazingly, Rockport remained dry until 2005. The tale digs into the humanity of the issue. A downturn in the fishing trade and many grounded boats is shown to have turned many of the men of coastal Rockport into idle alcoholics without a steady source of income. Additionally, the economic frustrations mixed with the liberal alcohol consumption led to cases of domestic violence. The tale is as much one of women’s lib and women’s issues as it is of prohibition.

On the second front, that of the sea serpent, the tale is more vague. Since the existence of the creature was never substantiated, perhaps this is not a surprise. However, the serpent makes a few appearances in this tale, just without any purpose or consequences. It’s merely there in the background. Though at one point it leads to the trippiest scene of the story as time and space warp . . .

This tale appears in Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters edited by John Langan and Paul Tremblay after originally appearing in Black Static.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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